Have you ever heard of Steve Harvey’s book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man? It is an interesting book and if you have not read it, try it out. It is a perfect example of how important it is to think like the thing or person you want to appeal to. I can cite another example and this is a TV series called Criminal Minds. The series follows an elite team from the BAU – Behavioural Analysis Unit. They assess crime scenes and other related material in coming up with working profiles of criminals (unsubs – unidentified subjects) they will be pursuing. The approach again is the same so why not use the same approach in business and entrepreneurship? In this article, I explore the subject of thinking like a customer.

The Problem-Solution Matrix

I am coining down that term to refer to all the dynamics pertaining to the problem and the solution. Often time entrepreneurs and business people reverse the order. Here is how they do it: they come up with a solution and knit together a problem, scenario, or situation it must solve. In other words, they try to enforce a solution that was never asked for in the first place. At times it emanates from being very good at developing stuff. For instance, just because you can code and come up with a great software or mobile app does not mean it is needed. The answer is simple – seek to understand people’s pain points first. What challenges or problems are they or do they experience? Dig deeper till you fully understand their experiences. Then use insights gathered to tailor-make a solution (i.e. a product or service) that will consummately address their pain points. Gathering insights can be laborious and demanding but it is worth it!

I am reminded of Albert Einstein when he once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.” That clearly shows you the importance spending more time asking the right question(s). You can never understand or think like a customer if you do not spend time asking the right questions. So, the takeaway is this: engage customers and seek to understand the problem(s) from their standpoint. You can use several methods some of which are polls, surveys, interviews, questionnaires, focus group discussions, and observations. Once that is done use insights gathered to fashion a solution or solutions specific to their experiences.

Going Beyond Assumptions Into Empirical Evidence

There is nothing necessarily wrong in making assumptions but treat them as hypotheses. In essence, I am saying treat assumptions as testable statements. So when you hear me saying, ‘never make assumptions’ I am saying do not base decisions or insights on assumptions. Ruthlessly verify or substantiate or otherwise so that you are sure. This can be achieved by collecting significant amounts of data that you will process.

Big tech titans such as Google and Facebook know their customers so well thanks to big data. They literally get into the mind of the customer to understand them and appeal to them. This is made possible by collecting and analysing data – something you must always do for your business. Be cautious about letting your biases dictate your research processes. It is easy to fall for the temptation of twisting data to suit what you think should be rather than what is.

Getting to a point where you think like a customer cannot happen without the customer. No wonder I always applaud businesses and startups that are customer-centric. Do not run your business by focusing on what you want or what you think people should want. Given the harsh business competition these days any slight drag and you are outdone. So as a business or startup you have two thinking caps to wear; one as a customer. The other one is as a business or startup, so you must be able to marry the two – they are symbiotic. So inspired by Steve Harvey we could say, Think Like A Customer, Act Like A Business/Startup.